Egberto Gismonti: Nó Caipira (CARMO/7)

CARMO-7-front-2

Egberto Gismonti
Nó Caipira

Egberto Gismonti piano, acoustic guitar, 12-string guitar (thanks to Ralph Towner), bottle, pífano, bambuzal, mouth berimbau, whistles, music box, kalimbas (thanks to Airto Moreira), cathedral (thanks to Pete Engelhart), accordion, piccolo guitar, comb, voice
Mauro Senise soprano and alto saxophones, flutes (C, G and piccolo), pífano, bambuzal, bottle
Zé Eduardo Nazário drums, percussion, tabla, zabumba, bambuzal, bottle, voice
Zeca Assumpção bass, bottle
Special guests:
Roberto Silva pandeiro, wood block, talk-drums, xequeré on all songs
Zezé Motta voice (on Canção da Espera”)
Campinas Orchestra (recorded 1979 at the Centro de Convivência Cultural Theater)
Benito Juarez conductor
Recorded and engineered by Nivaldo Duarte
Mixed at Synth Studios by Edú Mello e Souza
Artistic and executive production: Carmo Produções Artísticas Ltda
Production assistant: Dulce Bressane
Release date: June 1, 1993

Let’s celebrate
Nothing is like coming back to our place
To our home…

So begins this Nó Caipira, an album originally released in 1978 on EMI and reissued as the seventh CARMO release in 1993. The words are multivalent, a love song for a muse not present but also a promise to the listener. After the experimental derailing that was Trem Caipira, here we have an album that blessedly shares nothing more than a titular word. If anything, it’s a stylistic return to form we encounter in “Saudações,” the opening bossa nova written in the style of its dedicatee, João Gilberto. With just a guitar and voice (and no pesky electronics) to guide us, we can bask in the organic richness of everything that unravels from here.

Gismonti’s Academia de Danças group plays the entire album, save for the closing “Dança das Sombras,” performed by the Campinas Orchestra and soprano saxophonist Mauro Senise. As one of his more complex creations, it renders a dark yet undeniably enchanting climate that admirers of Keith Jarrett’s classical forays are sure to enjoy with even greater appreciation for depth. As for everything leading up to it, we encounter one overcast touchpoint after another, each alive with hints of the sunlit clearings we have left behind.

Filling in the gaps of memory are some shorter pieces with a folky vibe. The standout among these is “Maracatú, Sapo, Queimada & Grilo” for recreating the sounds of a forest. The human voice is a distant traveler in this instance, but makes an especially vivid appearance via Zezé Motta in “Canção da Espera.” Accompanied only by Gismonti on piano, Motta expresses her desires for nothing so grand as whirlwind romances and material riches but only a love that fulfills its promises. Other necessary stops along the way include “Pira & Bambuzal,” a strange and surreal blast of church organ that spills into “Palácio de Pinturas,” where a string orchestra flows close enough to touch. This sojourn belongs in a museum case alongside Gismonti’s most ethereal creations. But the biggest surprise for me is “Selva Amazônica.” As a splendid tribute to Heitor Villa-Lobos, its combination of 12-string guitar and percussion floats down a river dividing the lands of Ralph Towner (who, incidentally, loaned the guitar being played) and Steve Tibbetts. Its beauties are sagacious.

This album is a masterpiece that digs frantically into the ground in search of treasure, only to find a mirror to see that it was the treasure all along. An ideal place to plant your first step on the CARMO plateau.

Original vinyl cover:

Nó Caipira VINYL

Egberto Gismonti: Trem Caipira (CARMO/6)

Trem Caipira

Egberto Gismonti
Caipira

Egberto Gismonti piano, synthesizers (Oberheim Ob-xa, Korg Poly-800, Korg Ex800, Casio Cz-101, Yamaha Dx7, Roland Sh-101, Arp Odyssey 2), electronics (Oberheim Dsx Sequencer, Roland Msq-700 Sequencer, Roland Tr-808 Rhythm Computer, Korg Ddm 220 Rhythm Computer, Garfield Electronics Mini Doc Synthesizer Synchronizer), vocoder (Roland Svc 350)
Nivaldo Ornelas soprano saxophone
Bernard Wistraete flutes
Jaques Morelenbaum cello
Gungaô kalimba
Pita Filmena whistling
Alexandre do Bico flautinha do chaplin
Ge Mima xylophone
Bibi Roca drums
Orquestra Transarmônica D’Alma D’Omrac
Otineb Zerauj, Oriam Seravat
direction
Recorded September 1985 by Egberto Gismonti at Porão Studio and Jorge Teixeira (piano) at Sala Cecília Meireles
Recording supervisor: Dulce Bressane
Engineer: Bira Dantas
Mixed by Egberto Gismonti and Jorge Teixeira
Produced for Carmo Produções Artísticas Ltda
Production assistant: Dulce Bressane
Release date: January 1, 1992

Trem Caipira is a deep dig into the Egberto Gismonti archive. Originally released in 1985 on EMI and reissued as the sixth CARMO release in 1992, it boasts Gismonti’s unusual arrangements of music by Heitor Villa-Lobos. And yet, despite being approved by the composer’s widow, Mindinha, and the participation of Orquestra Transarmônica D’Alma D’Omrac (the names of whose members are, oddly enough, spelled backwards on the original LP), the sounds are almost entirely produced by a bank of synthesizers (Oberheim Ob-xa, Korg Poly-800, Korg Ex800, Casio Cz-101, Yamaha Dx7, Roland Sh-101, Arp Odyssey 2), electronics (Oberheim Dsx Sequencer, Roland Msq-700 Sequencer, Roland Tr-808 Rhythm Computer, Korg Ddm 220 Rhythm Computer, Garfield Electronics Mini Doc Synthesizer Synchronizer), and vocoder (Roland Svc 350).

The results leave much to be desired. Even the participation of cellist Jaques Morelenbaum in “Trenzinho do Caipira” does nothing to disguise the fact that Gismonti’s arsenal has gone threadbare with age. But if some tracks manage to eke by, then “Dansa” (from Bachiana No. 4) feels stuck in time and unable to escape from its own impulses. How wonderful to hear Gismonti’s acoustic piano in “Bachiana No. 5,” which anchors relatively tasteful qualities! But then the flaccid horns and drum machine of “Desejo” take over, and all is once again lost. Like the meager attempts of “Pobre Cega” to add percussion and flute, it meanders into non-action.

Having said all that, a few tracks work bizarrely well. These include “Cantiga” (from Bachiana No. 4) for its lively rhythms, chord changes, and a certain consistency of sound (not to mention the soprano saxophone of Nivaldo Ornelas) and “Preludio” (from Bachiana No. 4) for its harpsichord-like bite. The same cannot be said for “Canção de Carreiro,” which despite a melodic beauty (entirely to Villa-Lobos’s credit) feels like the opening credits to a subpar TV movie.

A fun hypothesis, but on the whole not worthy of becoming a theory. It will, however, have its place in the completist’s collection.

Egberto Gismonti: Academia de Danças (CARMO/5)

Academia CD

Egberto Gismonti
Academia de Danças

Egberto Gismonti piano, electric piano, guitar, Indian flute, synthesizer, organ, whistles, voice
Roberto Silva drums
Luís Alves bass
Nivaldo Ornelas soprano saxophone, flute
Tenório Jr. electric piano
Mauro Senise flute
Paulo Guimarães flute
Dulce Bressane voice
Aninha voice
Marya voice
Joyce voice
Lizzie voice
Dulce voice
Novelli voice
Mauricio Maestro voice
Marcio Montarroyos flugelhorn
Darcy da Cruz trumpet
Ed Maciel trombone
Mario Tavares conductor
Recorded at Porão Studio
Engineer: Filipe Cavalieri
Mixed by Egberto Gismonti and Filipe Cavalieri
Produced by Carmo Produções Artísticas Ltda
Production assistant: Dulce Bressane
Release date: January 1, 1992

Academia de Danças is one of Egberto Gismonti’s most personal hybrids and, along with Circense, represents so much of what he would become as an internationally renowned auteur. Originally released in 1974 on EMI and reissued as the fifth CARMO release in 1992, the present record was a watershed moment in his career and inspired an entire generation of listeners and future musicians growing up under his influence.

All of the music, save for the final piece, is delivered by way of Gismonti’s pen, and compels the composer to emote through guitar, Indian flute, keyboards (plugged and unplugged), and his own voice. In addition to some constant musical companions, he welcomes the spread of a string orchestra for “Corações Futuristas,” the first of two epic suites that comprise the program. From the very beginning, we can tell that the production values have stepped up to accommodate the breadth of imagery being rendered for our ears (as eyes). Traversing five parts, from the waterwheel guitar, voice (Dulce Bressane), and charming electronics of “Palácio de Pinturas” to the electric unraveling of “Scheherazade” (in which the sounds of a cheering crowd make for an intriguing effect), Gismonti and company embody the concept of variegation to wide extent. “Jardim de Prazeres” is more rhythmically nimble and features a self-divided guitar, along with Gismonti’s singing, for a rock-ish vibe. In the wake of that explosion, we get the tender salve of “Celebração de Núpcias,” in which Gismonti’s guitar, strings, and Bressane’s wordlessness paint a forest of dreams for us to wander in until we arrive at “A Porta Encantada.” Only this enchanted door is rife with mischief and deception, as if tainted by a spell to ward off any who might presume to venture through it.

The album’s title song cycle is a microcosm of painterly abilities. The lovelorn “Bodas de Prata” walks paths of uncertainty into “Quatro Cantos,” throughout which electronic imitations of crickets and birds populate a space peripherally haunted by Bressane. Wandering in slow motion through the thickness of night, it takes us into the depths of “Vila Rica 1720.” Here Gismonti evokes the riot of that same year, when Portuguese descendants fought against the Brazilian metropole. Following an energetic lullaby and a couple of free dives into jazzier gradations, we navigate the forest once more in “Polichinelo” (steering clear of animal-like rustlings in the piano) until we hop on the “Trem Noturno” (Night Train). What begins with piano and voice turns into a sequencer extravaganza, contrasted by chanting children. “Baião do Acordar” is the only non-Gismonti piece. Written by Djair de Barros e Silva (a.k.a. Novelli), it links a small chorus of voices into a chain that pulls us toward a fiery soprano saxophone solo by Nivaldo Ornelas. Thus transported, we arrive at our station, renewed and resilient to whatever may come.

Original vinyl cover:

Academia VINYL

Egberto Gismonti: Kuarup (CARMO/4)

Kuarup

Egberto Gismonti
Kuarup

Egberto Gismonti piano, guitar, bamboo flute, bambuzal, conductor
Dulce Bressane voice (on “Sônia”)
Jaques Morelenbaum cello (on “Sônia”), conductor
Recorded at Transmérica Studios
Engineers: Eduardo Costa and Edú Mello e Souza
Mixed at Synth Studios by Edú Mello e Souza
Produced by Carmo and Grapho Produções Artísticas Ltda
Release date: May 1, 1991

This obscure movie soundtrack was written by Egberto Gismonti for the 1989 film Kuarup (dir. Ruy Guerra). Based on the novel by Antonio Callado, it tells the story of a Jesuit Priest named Taumaturgo Ferreira, who forsook the life he knew to be among the Xingu Indians. The music is as tense as it is subdued, looming like a spirit calling from within the very landscape Ferreira falls in love with. Two orchestras—the first conducted by cellist Jaques Morelenbaum, the second (Transarmônica D’Alma D’Omrac) by Gismonti—add verdant expansion, providing a pillowed berth for Gismonti’s guitar in such tracks as “Valsa de Francisca I.”

Gismonti blends textures with artisanal subtlety. His bamboo flute adds decorative integrity to the segues (e.g., “Anta”), while his synthesizer begs for filmic context in some cases (especially in “A Dança da Floresta”) and in others stands on its own (“O Som da Floresta”). Either way, I much prefer the orchestral writing of “A Morte da Floresta,” which draws a thread of commonality through piano, arco strings, and pizzicato stippling. The soundtrack’s centerpiece is the moodier “Sônia,” which features the voice of Gismonti’s longtime production assistant, Dulce Bressane and Morelenbaum’s legato cello. A tender brush with love in an unloving world.

It would probably be better to hear this music along with the film, as it doesn’t quite hold form by its own skin. Still, it’s a lovely archival curio to have in one’s Gismonti cabinet.

Nando Carneiro: Violão (CARMO/3)

CARMO-3-front

Egberto Gismonti
Violão

Nando Carneiro acoustic guitars, piano, voice
Egberto Gismonti synthesizers, percussion, flute
Andre Geraissati guitar (solo on “Juliana” and “Paranóia”)
Beth Goulart voice (on “João Gabriel”)
Recorded February 1983 at Studio Porão
Engineer: Filipe Cavalieri
Mixed by Egberto Gismonti and Filipe Cavalieri
Produced by Carmo Produções Artísticas Ltda
Production assistant: Dulce Bressane
Release date: May 1, 1991

Though the CARMO label is primarily an Egberto Gismonti showcase, he occasionally welcomes other, equally authentic talents to share their experiences. Hence CARMO’s third 1991 reissue, this of a classic 1983 album by Nando Carneiro. As the first of two solo albums by the venerated Brazilian guitarist, it draws from a unassumingly different palette than Gismonti (who joins him on synthesizers, percussion, and flute) and paints a wide range of original material.

The title suite, over the course of three sections, centers on the classical guitar for which it is named. In spite of the nylon that welcomes us into “Espelho” (Mirror), which to my ears evokes swarms of gnats in morning sunlight, the sound of a drum machine breaks the mood. Thankfully, that feeling is minimal and gives way to relatively organic renderings. In Carneiro’s hands, the guitar opens its loving arms, especially in “Companheiro,” for which Gismonti’s hands are put to more effective use on a warmer synthesizer. On “João Gabriel,” actress Beth Goulart (married that year to Carneiro) stitches her vocal thread into the backdrop.

In the wake of “Charada,” a brief excursion for two guitars, the album’s highest achievement—“Poromim”—paints a cosmic portrait of time. Replete with the sounds of a cooing infant, it expresses the mystery of life without pretense. And in “Juliana,” a nocturnal undertone gives guest guitarist Andre Geraissati more than enough room to solo, as also in the two-part “As Gralhas” that follows.

Things turn sour when the kitschy drum machine returns in “G.R.E.S. Luxo: Artezenal,” but the guitar playing is so exquisite that one barely notices it. This blends into “O Campones,” in which Carneiro sings over synth lines and fluttering guitar with redemption close at hand. In the final “Liza,” he shows us that our waking dream has only just begun.

Original vinyl cover:

CARMO-3-front-LP

Egberto Gismonti: Circense (CARMO/2)

CARMO-2-front

Egberto Gismonti
Circense

Egberto Gismonti piano, electric piano, organ, guitar, flute, voice
Mauro Senise saxophones, flute
Roberto Silva drums, percussion
Luiz Alvez acoustic bass
L. Shankar violin
Silvio Mehry piano
Piry Reys guitar
Aleuda voice, percussion
Dulce Bressane voice
Pepe Castro Neves voice
Conductor: Benito Juarez
Engineers: Serginho and Toninho
Mixing: Nivaldo Duarte
Producer: Mariozinho Rocha
Executive producer: Egberto Gismonti
Release date: May 1, 1991

Circense may just be to Egberto Gismonti what The Köln Concert is to Keith Jarrett. Not in any stylistic sense, but only insofar as it has come to define the career of its singular creator. Originally released in 1980 on EMI and reissued as the second CARMO release in 1991, this circus-themed extravaganza features some of Brazil’s most highly regarded musicians and was included in Rolling Stone Brazil’s Top 100 Brazilian albums of all time.

In light of the above, it’s only natural that the session should kick off with one of the leader’s most enduring compositions, “Karatê,” which in its first recorded iteration shows off studied moves with close-eyed conviction. Roberto Silva’s drumming is a flurry of deftly executed kicks and punches, each of which Gismonti blocks and parries with his guitar. Mauro Senise on soprano saxophone elicits sheer joy as Gismonti switches from electric piano to acoustic. It’s the sonic equivalent of watching a circus tent being set up in fast-forward. It’s also genius.

“Cego Aderaldo” switches things up with an unexpected cameo by classical Indian violinist L. Shankar, who had a remarkable decade-long run on ECM. This song tells the story of the titular blind poet (1878-1967), who legendarily roamed the northeastern hinterlands of Brazil armed only with a guitar and his gift for rhyme. Not that one would know this backstory from the music itself, which combines guitars, electric violin, and tabla to raga-like effect. Shankar’s solo is a thoughtful dive inward, grabbing a thread of worldly concern as a lifeline back to reality should this fantasy prove too much to handle. His virtuosity is self-generating and magical. The latter comes out in the vocal-enhanced watercolors of “Mágico,” another touchstone of Gismonti’s oeuvre that awakens like a dreamer into another dream and hints at his groundbreaking project with saxophonist Jan Garbarek and bassist Charlie Haden.

Piano, soprano saxophone, and drums join forces in “Palhaço.” Nestled in the sounds of children at play, it luxuriates in sunshine. Even brighter is the romping “Tá Boa, Santa?” Flutes give it a youthful and folk-ish sound, while bassist Luiz Alvez makes good on every last minute of daylight. The party continues in “Equilibrista.” Here soprano saxophone and bass court each other like birds of the rainforest. After the twilit ballad of “Ciranda,” which drips like rain from those same leaves, “Mais Que Paixão” (More Than Passion) expands and contracts the lungs in farewell.

There’s really nothing else quite like this album. It must be heard to be believed.

Egberto Gismonti: Arvore (CARMO/1)

CARMO-1-front

Egberto Gismonti
Arvore

Egberto Gismonti piano, guitars, wood flutes, percussion, voice
Paolo Moura saxophone
Novelli Lobo bass
Edson Lobo bass
Tenório Jr. electric piano
Ion Muniz flute
Engineers: Dacy and Toninho
Produced by Geraldo Eduardo Carneiro
Release date: May 1, 1991

Because the dream was ending
When the day was breaking
On the mirror
One felt the dread of this dead taste
Of the past
Sunk into memory

And with that, let us throw open a curtain to the fantastical world of Brazilian composer/multi-instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti (and associated acts), as documented on the ECM-distributed CARMO label. CARMO is named after the small Brazilian town where he was born in 1947. Gismonti grew up classically trained and studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Jean Barraqué. It was Boulanger who famously encouraged him to look deep into the soul of the musical traditions he grew up with, and with that endorsement he returned home, where he taught himself guitar and built augmented guitars of his own design with more than the standard six strings.

Originally released as a self-titled album in 1973 on the Odeon label and reissued here as the inaugural CARMO release in 1991, Arvore (Portuguese for “tree,” hence the cover) sets precedent for an idiosyncratic blend of folk, classical, and jazz influences. This ambitious early project meshes Gismonti’s talents on piano, guitar, wood flutes, percussion, and voice with those of a small core ensemble, a string orchestra conducted by Mario Tavares, and a choir conducted by Gismonti himself.

Something of a theatrical song cycle sans stage, its initial stirrings flip between spoken word and singing, chambered regressions and expansive extroversions. Like everything that follows, this music creates as much context as it describes. Encounters of anthropological idealism share borders with colonial prophecies and the physical (yet voiceless) landscapes that predate all human contact. Encounters with cannibalism and other perceived injustices to the human spirit engage in subtle warfare with Judeo-Christian morality, as if the outcome might determine the direction of global tides.

So begins a mosaiced examination of fertile ideas, as each track delineates its own continent of psychosomatic activity. In “Memória E Fado” (Memory and Fate), one of Gismonti’s most beautiful constructions to date, we encounter a song of shouting skin and the heritages whispering within it. The two-part “Academia De Dança” (a name he would later adopt for his core ensemble of musicians) sets up a haunting composition for strings and soprano saxophone that bleeds into the dream of “Tango,” a swirling piano solo of shining three-dimensionality.

The album’s remainder spins an emotional color wheel. Its first stop is on the bossa nova of “Encontro No Bar” (Meeting in the Bar), in which Gismonti sings of the bar as “a funeral parlor” where candles flicker and forgotten spirits seek respite from their fate. Wooden flutes and women’s voices imply an immaterial world that overlaps with our downtrodden own. Next is the swath of cinematic joy that is “Adágio,” which at first sounds like something out of Michael Nyman’s soundtrack for The Piano, then executes a distinctly Brazilian change of costume. The dreamier journey of “Variações Sobre Um Tema De Léo Brouwer” crashes on the shores of its own disinterest in destinations, while the guitar and percussion of “Salvador” presage Gismonti’s collaboration with Nana Vasconcelos a decade later.

In addition to his technical and compositional abilities, Gismonti is a master craftsman of atmosphere. Such variety, connected by an unwavering commitment to the moment, is rare and makes Gismonti worthy of occupying this orbit in the ECM solar system, satellites and all.

Egberto Gismonti: Saudações (ECM 2082/83)

Saudações

Egberto Gismonti
Saudações

Camerata Romeu
Zenaida Romeu conductor
Alexandre Gismonti guitar
Egberto Gismonti guitar
“Sertões Veredas”
Recorded August 2006, Teatro Amadeo Roldán, Havana
Engineer: Jerzy Belc
Assistant:  Argeo Roque Bernabeu
“Duetos De Violões”
Recorded April and May 2007, Mega Studio and Cecília Meireles Hall, Rio de Janeiro
Engineer: Márcio Gama
Assistant: Guthemberg Pereira
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher

Saudações, of which the title means “salutations,” marks the welcome end of a 12-year ECM hiatus for Egberto Gismonti since 1997’s Meeting Point. Whereas on that record he explored his conservatory training in a set of lively orchestral compositions with Gismonti as piano soloist, the first of this two-disc follow-up consists of Sertões Veredas, a suite in seven parts for strings alone, while the second disc features guitar duets and solos with the composer’s son Alexandre.

Seasoned Gismonti listeners will know what to expect from the program’s latter half. In addition to renditions of classic tunes, including “Lundú,” “Dança Dos Escravos,” and “Zig Zag”—each a bouquet of nimble, sparkling exposition—the duo soars through a veritable résumé of Father Gismonti’s uniquely tender ferocity. From subdued (“Mestiço & Caboclo”) to slipstream (“Dois Violões”), the performances emit a veritable brocade of fire. Alexandre contributes two solos to the program: the gentle, cyclical “Palhaço” (by Egberto) and the original “Chora Antônio.” Alexandre’s animations make them both album must-hears. After a few jagged turns, notably in “Dança,” Egberto ends by his lonesome with the title track, an adroit little bee of a tune that settles in a flower of harmonics.

Gismonti & Son play with freedom of detail, all the while holding fast to an underlying pulse that distinguishes so much of Egberto’s writing. Concentrated as they are, any one of these pieces might expand to an album’s length without loss of potency. In a sense, this is the feeling behind the orchestral suite that begins the album. As always, Gismonti paints a world proper, a landscape of vivid memories, childhood impressions, and mature reflections—all tied together by a love for his homeland and its peoples. Subtitled as a “Tribute to Miscegenation” (Tributo à miscigenação) and played with vivaciousness by Cuba’s Camerata Romeu, it is a heartfelt tribute to—and preservation of—times and places clearly dear to him, all intermingling in a new continent.

The cornucopia of influences from which he has drawn is already apparent in the first movement, of which the spirit remains very much rooted in the composer’s guitaristic panache (even his pianism, heard elsewhere, turns the keyboard into an enormous, fretted instrument). More than the instrument’s mechanics, its immediate tactility carries over into the scores, which sound like magnified string quartets. Gismonti’s attention to the orchestra’s lower end is especially robust, the double basses providing pulse, melodic undertow, and soil for botanical riches above ground. The occasional cello line acts as a link between dynamic extremes, leaving the violins to pollinate, as they will. Each movement is a suite of its own, moving from high to low, slow to fast, loud to soft in a heartbeat. The most obvious references are to Stravinsky (Part IV), John Adams’s Shaker Loops (Part V), and even the romantic touch of a Mendelssohn (Part VI), leaving the final part, an ode to folk traditions and dances, to bask in the resolution of camaraderie.

Speaking of attention, Saudações is recorded with just the right balance of intimacy and mountainous space. Peak slope into a valley of riches, each more scintillating than the last. A treasure trove for Gismonti fans. Even more so for newcomers. Either way: leave your shoes at the perimeter and step into the circle as you are.

Charlie Haden/Egberto Gismonti: In Montreal (ECM 1746)

In Montreal

Charlie Haden
Egberto Gismonti
In Montreal

Charlie Haden double-bass
Egberto Gismonti guitar, piano
Recorded July 6, 1989, Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, Salle Marie-Gérin-Lajoie, Université du Québec
Recorded by La Chaîne culturelle de Radio-Canada
Recording and mixing engineers: Alain Chénier and Michel Larivière
Editing and mastering: Denis Leclerc
Recording and mixing producer: Daniel Vachon
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher

Twelve years after it was recorded at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, this landmark performance by legendary American bassist Charlie Haden and Brazilian guitarist-pianist Egberto Gismonti at last saw the light of day in 2001. The concert marks the sixth of eight organized by the festival in celebration of Haden’s ongoing legacy. Haden had plenty of experience playing with Gismonti as part of their Magico trio with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek, yet the distillations offered here are entirely of another plane.

From the Magico songbook the duo plays “Palhaço” (a trio staple by Gismonti), as well as the Haden-penned “Silence.” Both feature Gismonti’s astonishing pianism, balancing florid biospheres with ponderous asides, Haden all the while drafting the terms of endearment by which every page turns. Haden the composer also reveals the set’s deepest piece: “First Song.” Featuring Gismonti on acoustic guitar, its intuition soars for all its quietude. A pleasant street scene, a childhood memory, a favorite scent in the air…exchanging glances in a melodic triangle. Such trade-offs mark the session for its selfless ingenuity. So, too, the jangly undercurrents of opener “Salvador” and “Em Familia,” both of which reference Gismonti’s work with Academia de Danças and, as such, reflect a bold unity of purpose. The latter’s invigoration grabs scruffs and throws us skyward, even as it gives us wings to fly. And fly we do into quiet pockets of cloud, each the eye of a storm where the leaves barely tremble to the tune of Gismonti’s masterful harmonics. Also notably from the Academia repertoire are “Maracatú,” a study in contrasts, and “Frevo,” in which pointillism at the piano inspires dramatic, resonant depths from Gismonti’s partner. “Don Quixote” (previously featured on Duas Vozes with percussionist Nana Vasconcelos) closes with an elegy-turned-anthem, a shifting ocean of temperate love.

Although there is much to admire in Gismonti’s prodigious guitar playing, it’s at the piano where his musicality truly shines. How wonderful to get so much of it here. And no bassist crafts melodies quite like Haden. He keeps the earth in mind, even when there is nothing but sky ahead of us, scaling the ladder from light to dark and back to light while Gismonti filigrees his playing like a frame around a picture. In Montreal is a must-have for fans of these unique talents, who together forge a distinctly “global” sound: not world music, but music for the world.